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Osteoporosis is a bone weakness characterized by low bone density with symptoms that generally occur only after the disease is advanced.1 Bone fractures are the most common consequence; others include loss of height, stooped posture, and back and neck pain from spinal fractures. Risk of osteoporosis increases with age and is much more common among women than men. In 2005–2008, an estimated 9.8 million women (9.0 percent) and 1.5 million men (1.5 percent) had osteoporosis. More than one in four women aged 65 and older had been diagnosed with osteoporosis, compared with 4.2 percent of men. Among women aged 65 and older, osteoporosis varied significantly by race and ethnicity. About 30 percent of non-Hispanic White and Hispanic women aged 65 and older reported that they had been diagnosed with osteoporosis, compared to 11.1 percent of non-Hispanic Black women of the same age.

Osteoporosis may be prevented and treated by getting the recommended amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and regular weight-bearing physical activity (such as walking), and by taking prescription medication when appropriate.1,2 To promote early diagnosis and the prevention of complications, bone density tests are recommended for all women aged 65 and older and younger women who have a risk factor, including low weight, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and family history of a broken hip.3

Bone fractures among the elderly most commonly occur among those with osteoporosis and can have devastating consequences. For example, 1 in every 5 hip fracture patients die within a year of their injury.2 Falls are a common direct cause of osteoporosis-related fracture and are the leading cause of injury—both fatal and nonfatal—among adults aged 65 and older. In 2009, there were 2.2 million unintentional nonfatal fall injuries treated in emergency departments among adults aged 65 and older. The rate of nonfatal fall injury was higher among women than men and increased with age. Among both women and men, the rate of nonfatal fall injury was about five times higher among those aged 85 and older than those aged 65–69. Fall prevention efforts can include muscle strengthening, home hazard assessments and modifications, and avoiding sedative medications that may impair balance and coordination.2

1 Mayo Clinic.External Web Site Policy Osteoporosis. November 2010. Accessed 04/19/11.
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: Office of the Surgeon General; 2004.
3 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.External Web Site Policy Recommendations. Accessed 04/19/11.



Diagnosed Osteoporosis* Among Adults Aged 18 and Older, By Age and Sex, 2005–2008
Age Group Percent of Adults
Female Male
*Reported a health professional had ever told them they had osteoporosis.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2008. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Information Resource Center.
18-44 Years  1.6 0.4
45-64 Years 8.37 1.8
65 Years and Older 27.8 4.2
Total 9.0 1.5
Nonfatal Unintentional Injury Due to Falls* per 100,000 Adults Aged 65 and Older, by Age and Sex, 2009
Age Group Rate per 100,000 Adults
Female Male
*Treated in hospital emergency departments.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Accessed 04/01/11.
65-69 Years 3,375.5 2,281.0
70-74 Years 4,367.5 2,791.8
75-79 Years 5,828.8 4,066.9
80-84 Years 8,913.7 6,305.4
85 Years and Older 13,363.7 10,675.6

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